by William Congreve
Foreword by Peter Ackroyd
Returning to Florence on the occasion of his eighteenth birthday, Aurelian – together with his sworn companion Hippolito – dons his disguise in anticipation of the famous Florentine ball. Once there, the two are soon separated, and each finds himself paired off with a beautiful – and masked – lady. Whilst Aurelian yearns to learn the true identity of his ‘Incognita’, Hippolito is mistaken for another and brazenly plays along with the conceit.
As morning dawns, the youths cannot escape the elaborate web of deceit they have unwittingly created and despair of confessing their mischief without losing their enchanting – if slightly mysterious – paramours. And with Aurelian’s father newly arrived on the scene, they cannot long escape exposure. Chaos abounds as masks are dropped, truth revealed, and, somehow, all ends happily.
Incognita is Congreve’s only novel. With its masqued balls, mistaken identities, and fanciful deceits, it bears all the hallmarks of his comic genius.